The Clean Beauty Brand Owner's Take on Clean Beauty
Tiffany Masterson, the creator of popular skincare brand Drunk Elephant, has another definition of the term for her brand: the ingredients need to be both safe and well-suited for your skin. "Clean and skin-compatible are not always the same thing, and if you want healthy skin, you need both," Masterson said. "We carefully evaluate the ingredient's potential benefit and biocompatibility with the skin, as well as its potential to harm, disrupt, sensitize, irritate, and congest it."
The brand makes sure to research every ingredient to find the correct concentrations, its long-term effects, and how it interacts with other active ingredients. For example, while the brand was originally skeptical of the use of retinol, after researching and looking at safety data, it determined that the ingredient was extremely beneficial to the skin. Through the brand's research, it also determined that combining the ingredient with vitamins C and E can boost the effect of retinol. Drunk Elephant's retinol product, A-Passioni ($74), contains kale leaf extract, which is rich in both vitamins A and E.
It found that retinol and vitamin C was an especially powerful combination. "Retinol and vitamin C is a really special relationship, as the two work synergistically — boosting each other's effectiveness when used together in fighting UV-generated free radicals and worn under a broad-spectrum sunscreen," Masterson said.
Through similar research, the brand has also determined ingredients it deems harmful for the skin. "Avoiding ingredients that promote inflammation in skin is incredibly important, because inflammation is the root cause of most of the skin concerns that many of us struggle with," she said. The ingredients that Drunk Elephant has determined as potentially harmful, which she calls the "suspicious six," are silicones, essential oils, fragrances or dyes, drying alcohols, sodium lauryl sulfate, and chemical or synthetic sunscreens, which Masterson believes inflame the skin and are the root causes of many common skin issues such as dehydration and oiliness.
Sometimes, a brand will ban an ingredient simply because consumers demand it. That was the case for Drunk Elephant and parabens. While the preservative was once thought to cause breast cancer, many scientists and cosmetic chemists now insist that the ingredient is misunderstood and being prematurely banned. "They are perfectly safe and are among the mildest-to-skin preservatives, but are still incredibly effective against microbial and bacterial growth," Masterson said. "Unfortunately, despite the fact that their health-risk claims were debunked, the damage has been done to their reputation, and consumers simply want to avoid them, and that's why we don't use them."